Martin Bennett (1999): Mammy-Wagons, Kaduna-Lagos Road




The other day I stumbled across this beautiful little poem by Martin Bennet, a British poet and translator who is, if I am not mistaken, now based in Rome, Italy (link leads to another of his poems but with a short bio). This poem comes from a collection that is informed by his time in Nigeria and was published in 1999 by Wasafiri. 

Mammy-Wagons, Kaduna-Lagos Road

'Slow but Steady,' 'Allah Knows,' 'Time is Going' –

Wagons flash maxims north, south, east and west –

Now an armour-painted wingless 'Boeing,'

Now the fast-thundering 'God's Time De Best.'

In a wayside ditch, beyond all towing,

'Junior Tarzan' takes a rusty rest.

Fortified meat for Ogun or Shango

Is its coachwork timer, iron engine.

Across the tilted tailboard a motto

Declares 'WAR AGAINST INDISCIPLINE'

With a blazon of post-cautionary red.

'No kiss my gnash' winks the left tailfin,

the right, 'Horn b/4 you put your head.'

To each driver or self-appointed 'King

Of Roads' his wheelspun philosophy and creed,

Here's gear-screeching 'No Telephone to Heaven.'

A ten ton telegram for all to read,

Round the next curve hurtles 'Psalm 27.'

Kaduna motorpark's two hundred brawling

Miles behind already. 'They Who Dread

For Their Lives May Be Killed By a Falling

Leaf' roars a bright reminder inside

The mirror, markets of Lagos, Ilorin

And Oshogbo still a hard day's drive ahead.

Martin Bennet

Wasafiri, Autum 1999, Issue No. 30, 55 (Link [Paywall])

Let me use this occasion to direct you to another of Bennet's projects that I've mentioned before: This lovely page run by Arthur Brooks: A Nigerian Travelogue.
Edited 15 January 2017 to fix formatting of poem.

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